“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…” goes the refrain to an old but popular song. Summertime SHOULD be easy: Winter is over, the sun is shining bright, and chances are you have plans for a vacation.
There’s nothing better than enjoying the warm weather and summer celebrations. But if you’re thinking of taking a vacation from your diabetes self-care, think twice. The warm weather is a time to be more diligent about many aspects of your diabetes management. Doing so can make summer more enjoyable for you.
From cookouts and picnics to ice cream and lemonade, summer brings its own special treats that many of us don’t usually indulge in at other times of the year. Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t partake in these treats, but it does mean paying some attention to carbs and portions.
Try these tips:
• Go ahead and enjoy a burger or hot dog. If you’re cooking, buy lean ground beef or consider trying ground turkey breast to save on some fat and calories.
• Count those carbs! Hamburger rolls, potato or macaroni salad, and corn on the cob are tasty, but they all contain carbohydrate. Know your carbohydrate goal (often 45 to 60 grams per meal) and plan ahead of time how you’ll use your carbs.
• Infuse a pitcher of water with lemon, lime, or orange slices. Or slice up a cucumber and grab some sprigs of mint and add them to water for a refreshing, no-calorie, no-carb drink. Make your own lemonade with fresh lemon juice and the sweetener of your choice, or try True Lemon or True Lime powder, which is free of calories and has less than 1 gram of carbohydrate per packet.
• Load up on vegetables. Salad greens, carrots, tomatoes…you name it, they’re fresh, filling, and low in carbs.
• Try making kale chips for a snack instead of munching on potato chips. Drizzle freshly washed kale leaves with some olive oil; sprinkle on some sea salt, and bake at 350°F for about 10 minutes.
• For a sweet treat, try a frozen fruit juice bar, a sugar-free popsicle, or a no-sugar-added Fudgsicle.
• Watch those frozen coffee drinks — some of them contain hundreds of calories. Try unsweetened iced coffee or iced tea, or use a sweetener of your choice.
• You’re more likely to get out and be active when the weather is nice. But if you’ve been cooped up all winter on the couch, it’s important to go easy so that you don’t injure yourself.
• Make a point to go for a walk at least once a day, whether it’s around your neighborhood, in the mall, or around the high school track.
• Beat the heat. Early morning is the best time to exercise when the weather is hot. Walking, running, or biking in the heat of the day doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
• Wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days.
• Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before you exercise. Bring a water bottle with you. Drink more water when you’re done.
• Check your blood sugar levels before and after you exercise. If you tend to go low, consider exercising after a meal or, better yet, talk to your doctor about lowering the dose of your diabetes medicine.
• Wear the right footwear. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes or sneakers, along with socks that wick away moisture. If you’re at the beach, wear beach shoes or flip-flops to prevent cutting your feet on rocks or shells, as well as to keep from burning your feet on hot pavement.
• Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, redness, or swelling. Treat cuts and blisters properly. Call your doctor if they don’t seem to be healing or going away.
• Your schedule may be different during the summer, especially if you go away or have a different routine. Make sure you continue to take your diabetes medicines (and all your medicines, for that matter) as prescribed by your doctor.
• If you take insulin, protect it from heat. Don’t leave it in a hot car or in direct sunlight. Keep your insulin pens or vials in an insulated case, but not next to an ice pack: you don’t want your insulin to freeze, either.
• When traveling out of the country, keep your diabetes medicines and supplies with you in a carry-on bag. Bring a letter from your doctor stating that you have diabetes and that you take diabetes medicine. Also, ask your doctor for prescriptions for your diabetes medicine and, if needed, syringes or insulin pens and needles. Pack extra supplies.
• Always wear or carry some form of medical identification stating that you have diabetes.
• Depending on your routine during the summer, you may need to check your blood glucose more than usual, especially if you’re traveling or if your usual routine changes.
• Check your blood glucose after any kind of activity, whether it’s hiking, swimming, sightseeing, or marching in a parade.
• If you take insulin or diabetes pills that can cause lows, make sure you always have a treatment for low blood glucose with you.
• Check your blood glucose more often if you’re traveling across time zones.
With careful planning and paying attention to your diabetes, summertime really can be easy!